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Mexico is halfway between tyranny and salvation, but the good news is that AMLO may lose. As we approach the crucial mid-term elections on June 6, political agendas are accelerating and seem to be rushing towards their goal. A few months ago, the triumph of the ruling party seemed almost inevitable, but today the opposition has real possibilities of wresting control of the Chamber of Deputies from López Obrador, regaining control of most of the local congresses and even keeping half of the disputed governorships, which would be a potentially lethal blow to the nascent regime.
From his office in the National Palace, President López Obrador and his team have also noticed this change in the winds. Their reaction has been to accelerate the pace in their strategy to collapse the counterweights and revive the imperial presidency.
In recent months, AMLO has increasingly shown his true autocratic face, considering himself literally above the law. This is what he said in his conference last April 20, when he complained to the National Electoral Institute for asking him to comply with the law, pointing out that “my right to demonstrate is my freedom and that is above any other provision or regulation.”
Above any other provision or regulation
This conviction that the president’s whim is above the laws goes far beyond a statement in the heat of controversy; it is an authentic modus operandi of his administration and the political movement that supports it. They even reach the point of absurdity, as happened on April 23, when the Chamber of Deputies approved a transitory article that extends to 6 years the term of Minister Arturo Zaldívar as President of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation.
There are two problems with this:
First: the extension openly, directly, and unquestionably violates Article 97 of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States, which mandates a 4-year term.
Second: the reform seems to be the “prototype” on the basis of which López Obrador would eventually propose another transitory article to extend his own term as President of the Republic and remain in power well beyond October 7, 2024, (the date on which he is constitutionally obliged to hand over the presidency).
For the time being, the opposition will try to prevent the outrage by filing an action of unconstitutionality against the extension of Zaldívar’s term, which ironically will be resolved by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation itself, presided over by the judge in question.
With identical disregard for the Constitution and the international agreements signed by Mexico, on April 22 the Senate approved a series of reforms to the Hydrocarbons Law that in practice revive the nefarious monopoly of PEMEX, threatening the death of the recently born private industry in said sector. Just a few days before, the same upper house gave its approval to the creation of a dystopian national registry of mobile telephone users, which will force users to hand over their biometric information in order to have a cell phone line, with all the risks that this implies.
Both reforms will be combated with a rain of amparo lawsuits before the Judicial Power that will eventually have to be defined, precisely by the ministers of the Supreme Court whose president the ruling party wants to benefit in an equally illegal manner.
AMLO might lose
In spite of all these outrages, added to the terrible handling of the pandemic, the economic blunders, the shortage of medicines, the meddling of the army in civilian life, and other constant tragedies we have previously discussed, the president’s popularity is at its best point so far this year: 61.5 % according to Consulta Mitofsky.
However, the president’s personal popularity does not guarantee his party’s triumph. The same polls that a few months ago pointed to a resounding triumph of the ruling party led by Morena, today show a much more nuanced picture. For example, the most recent poll by Massive Caller (April 13) gives 256 federal deputies to the ruling party, against 244 for the opposition.
At this rate, Obrador would not only lose the qualified majority he needs to approve constitutional reforms, but could even run out of the simple majority he needs to approve the budget. That is why he is so exalted, betting on conflict to intimidate his rivals and mobilize his followers for the elections.
Something similar happens with the governorships. On June 6, 15 of the 32 entities of the country will renew their governorships. A year ago, the ruling party won 14 of them (only Queretaro was for the center-right National Action Party). Now the opposition already shows a solid lead in 6 states, including Nuevo Leon, which is the industrial heart of the country and could add 2 or 3 more in the weeks remaining before the election.
What is happening?
Some AMLO supporters are beginning to realize that giving all the power to the president is not a good idea. However, in most cases, the shift in favor of the opposition has much more to do with the local level.
To win the presidency, Lopez Obrador built a political movement headed by Morena, where he brought together all kinds of “leaders”, many of them drawn from the worst of the old politics. The result is that now there are many municipalities, districts and states where the candidates of the ruling party are viewed with distrust by the people, even by the pro-Obrador people.
To this must be added the incessant conflicts within the ruling party. In each region, there are several political groups fighting tooth and nail (and sometimes with bullets) for the control of Morena. Many of them are willing to damage their own party’s chances as long as it allows them to weaken their internal rivals.
The icing on the cake is the epidemic of incompetence that we have already analyzed in the federal government and that is also experienced among political operators. To win elections you need structures, as well as money, logistics, and the ability to mobilize them effectively, first in the campaign and then at the polls.
Morena may have the money, but it lacks the logistical capacity (and, in many cases, the talent) to get its supporters out to vote, especially this time when AMLO is not on the ballot. On the contrary, the opposition alliance counts not only with the old sea dogs but also with the party discipline indispensable for electoral mobilization.
The result is an electoral contest much more even than would have been expected a few months ago, where the opposition had very real possibilities of stopping a regime whose tyranny is becoming more and more evident, in AMLO’s desperation to cement his own power before he loses the parliamentary majority that until now has allowed him to govern essentially by decree, using the congress as a mere party official.
Yes, Mexico is halfway between tyranny and salvation, and the next few weeks will be definitive, life or death for democracy, for institutions, for the law and for the freedom of millions of people, in the face of a regime that has decided to go beyond authoritarian regression and bet on Venezuelan-style totalitarianism.
For the time being, in spite of all the bad news, the good news is that AMLO may lose.
Gerardo Garibay Camarena, is a doctor of law, writer and political analyst with experience in the public and private sectors. His new book is "How to Play Chess Without Craps: A Guide to Reading Politics and Understanding Politicians" // Gerardo Garibay Camarena es doctor en derecho, escritor y analista político con experiencia en el sector público y privado. Su nuevo libro es “Cómo jugar al ajedrez Sin dados: Una guía para leer la política y entender a los políticos”